Every business would like to be more efficient and more profitable.
Developing a plan to reach those goals requires being honest about how your processes are currently running. Recognizing and admitting there is a problem is rarely easy, but here are 10 basic clues to look out for that indicate your processes need more in-depth analysis and adjustment.
1. The process takes longer than it should.
This is a very common problem that frequently occurs when one step in the process does not flow smoothly into another. This can happen for a wide variety of reasons. Here are a few:
The flow of steps does not have a known timeframe. All too often when you ask an employee how long a particular step takes, you will hear, “It depends.” That may be true, particularly if that step involves differing levels of complexity each time it’s performed, but there should be a standardized timeframe that can take into account all common and known circumstances that would affect the time it takes to complete that step.
The flow of steps is not properly timed. This can be the result of not having a standardized timeframe for each step in the process. Consequently, some employees may experience downtime while waiting for the completion of someone else’s step before they are able to begin their own.
The process was implemented without proper training. This scenario breeds inefficiency, as no one knows the “right way” to do things. Each employee will develop their own way of handling their particular responsibilities that may not properly take into account how their methods affect other steps in the process, rendering them inefficient and possibly redundant.
2. The process is far from simple or straightforward.
Complicated business processes can be difficult to understand and time consuming to follow, particularly when the complication is unnecessary. When too many variables are introduced, certain tasks may be forgotten or ignored entirely. This can lead to errors, inefficiencies, and a disruption of process flow as employees develop easier ways to complete their steps.
When too many variables are introduced, the resulting confusion can create inefficiency within each step, which then compounds that inefficiency by slowing down the handoff from one step to another. There is an additional layer of inefficiency when confusion results in incorrect or incomplete data being moved from one employee or department to another… but we’ll get to that in number 4.
3. The process does not allow for any flexibility.
It is important to remember that the goal is to develop the most effective and efficient process given the current circumstances. As circumstances change, (such as shifts in the marketplace, challenges with competition, changes in rules and regulations), the process should be re-evaluated to determine if adjustments are needed to maintain efficiency.
Keep an eye out for old habits that just won’t die. It’s not uncommon for a business to have a process or two that seems to be ingrained in the corporate culture. Ye old, “We’ve always done it that way.”